Release Date(s)1985 (October 12, 2021)
Studio(s)Embassy International/20th Century Fox/Universal Pictures (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: A+
- Overall Grade: A
“The dreams of youth are the regrets of maturity.”
Ridley Scott has always been a filmmaker willing to tackle different genres and give them his own personal stamp, and Legend is no exception. Taking over the stages at Pinewood Studios (one of which burned down during the production) to create some of the most dense and realistic-looking fantastical forests in all of film, Ridley’s Legend was bound to be beautiful, thanks in no small part to his meticulously-orchestrated cinematography and production design. The story follows a sinister plot by the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) to cast enternal night upon the world—and seduce the Princess Lili (Mia Sara) in the process—a plot that a young woodsman named Jack (Tom Cruise) attempts to foil. A pure fairy tale from beginning to end, the film doesn’t lend itself to a traditional structure. It’s more of a series of events, one leading to the other without strong narrative propulsion. And depending on which cut of the film you’re watching, it also doesn’t follow the usual story conventions, such as the damsel in distress formula. Thankfully, the film is more interesting than that, drawing upon Judeo-Christian beliefs and images and mixing them with the dark fairy tales of our youths.
In many ways, Legend is not unlike other fantasy films of the 1980s, including Willow, The Dark Crystal, and Time Bandits. But its lasting appeal lies within its visuals and the incredible make-up effects by Rob Bottin. Some viewers may not remember the story of Legend, but they never forget the image of Tim Curry as Darkness. He’s one of the best-realized fantasy characters ever put on film. Gargantuan in size, possessing a mighty set of horns atop a solid red body with hooves and cat-like eyes, he’s indeed a threatening presence. Memorable performances by Curry and Sara add to Legend’s longevity as well, though these actors are given far more to work with than Tom Cruise as Jack. Cruise certainly goes all in, as always, but his character is sadly rendered flat by the theatrical release version.
When Legend finally debuted in the US in 1985, it had an extremely lean 89-minute running time (it’s only 5 minutes longer internationally), with a Tangerine Dream soundtrack replacing the originally-completed score by Jerry Goldsmith. Looking at them side by side, both versions have their strengths and weaknesses, but the US version is far too short and moves way too quickly during key moments. In the early 2000s, DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika and his team finally located a print of what became known as the Director’s Cut. It was a revelation of sorts, improving the pacing and character beats, and allowing the story to breathe in a way that the release version simply did not. For this reviewer’s money, the Director’s Cut with Jerry Goldsmith’s score is the best version available. Tangerine Dream’s work is no less laudable, but it doesn’t blend with the aesthetic as well. Just having the option of watching both versions is a minor miracle.
Legend was captured on 35 mm photochemical film by Alex Thomson, using Arriflex cameras and Cooke Xtal Express anamorphic lenses, and was finished on film at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Arrow Video has performed a new 4K scan of the film’s original camera negative, with grading and restoration completed in 2K. The result is presented in 1080p HD on Blu-ray in the proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The original camera negative is conformed to the 93-minute international version, but due to licensing restrictions (Disney/Fox owns the rights to that version), it could not be included here. Nevertheless, this source was used to restore the US theatrical version. Sadly though, the elements needed to perform a 4K restoration of the Director’s Cut of the film are currently lost. Only two answer prints for this version are known to survive (these were used for the 2002 DVD restoration and again in 2011 for Blu-ray, both by Universal). That ten-year-old HD master is the source used by Arrow Video for this release, and—as restoration supervisor James Flower recently detailed on Twitter (link here)—this is part of the reason why the film was not considered for a 4K Ultra HD release at this time. It should also be noted that the Director’s Cut was the primary source for color grading on both versions.
This new restoration of the US version of the film is a marked improvement upon the 2011 Blu-ray release, which we reviewed some time ago. The level of detail has been enhanced with added clarity in the image, particularly in the darker portions of the frame. Moderate grain remains but is tighter now, with better encoding. It occasionally spikes in the darker scenes, but never compromises the quality of the visuals. The color palette is lush and much more natural than the oversaturated 2011 release, which looked good at the time but doesn’t hold up to modern standards. Greens, reds, and blues are dialed back a bit and are more nuanced and accurate. Blacks are often deep, with good contrast and shadow detail. The image is mostly clean and stable, outside of a few dated visual effects and the optically-produced opening and closing titles, which were sourced from an interpositive element. All in all, this is a wonderful presentation. The Director’s Cut is similar in terms of color timing, but different in every other category. The generational loss of detail is evident, particularly in darker areas of the frame, but it’s an otherwise pleasant presentation given the parameters. And again, due to the multiple minor edits and changes throughout both versions of the film, using the 4K scan of the international version to create a higher quality version of the Director’s Cut was simply not an option.
Sound is provided for both versions in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional subtitles in English SDH. They appear to be the same tracks that were found on the previous Blu-ray release from Universal. The 5.1 track spreads out the elements of the film’s original stereo soundtrack, even placing certain sound effects in different positions. Dialogue is mostly front and center apart from Darkness, who has a much deeper and more enveloping voice. The Tangerine Dream score doesn’t fully integrate with the other elements at play, but Jerry Goldsmith’s score soars by comparison. Sound effects are given ample support, from the lightest atmospherics to the booming and cacophonous sounds within the inner sanctum of Darkness’ lair. Low frequency activity is also abundant during these moments. New Atmos mixes might have pushed the sound experience over the top here, but these tracks are quite satisfactory.
LEGEND: US THEATRICAL VERSION (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C+/A-/A-
LEGEND: DIRECTOR’S CUT (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B+/B/A-
Arrow’s Blu-ray release is a 2-disc set, containing the US theatrical version on one disc and the Director’s Cut on the other. Each Blu-ray contains a substantial amount of special features, as follows:
DISC ONE: US THEATRICAL VERSION
- Audio Commentary by Paul M. Sammon
- Isolated Music Score by Tangerine Dream
- Isolated Music & Effects Track
- Remembering a Legend (HD – 30:45)
- The Music of Legend – Part One: Jerry Goldsmith (HD – 15:12)
- The Music of Legend – Part Two: Tangerine Dream (HD – 13:09)
- The Creatures of Legend: Inside the Illustrations (HD – 10:28)
- The Creatures of Legend: Inside the Make-Up Effects (HD – 16:15)
- Incarnations of a Legend (HD – 20:47)
- The Directors: The Films of Ridley Scott (SD – 58:33)
- Television Version Opening (HD – 1:26)
- Is Your Love Strong Enough? Music Video (SD – 5:23)
Paul M. Sammon provides a new audio commentary, delving mightily into the film’s entire production and post-production history, and detailing many of the differences between the various versions of the film. It’s yet another invaluable commentary from the author and film historian. Remembering a Legend is a new retrospective documentary about the making of the film with production supervisor Hugh Harlow, grip David Cadwallader, set decorator Ann Mollo, co-star Annabelle Lanyon, costume designer Charles Knode, camera operator Peter MacDonald, and draftsman John Ralph. The Music of Legend is a two-part featurette that examines the scores for each version of the film, featuring audio interviews with experts Jeff Bond and Daniel Schweiger, as well as Austin Garrick and Bronwyn Griffin from the band Electric Youth. The Creatures of Legend is a two-part featurette that takes a look at the make-up for the film, featuring audio interviews with illustrator Martin A. Kline and make-up effects artist Nick Dudman. Incarnations of a Legend is a brand new visual essay by critic Travis Crawford discussing the different versions of the film. The Directors is a 2003 documentary that chronicles Ridley Scott’s career. The Television Version Opening is included too, which features an added voiceover to read the on-screen text. And you get the music video for Is Your Love Strong Enough? by Bryan Ferry and David Gilmour, which features footage from the film and was directed by Tim Pope.
DISC TWO: DIRECTOR’S CUT
- Audio Commentary by Ridley Scott
- Creating a Myth: The Memories of Legend (SD – 51:03)
- Original Featurette (SD – 9:44)
- Lost Scenes – Alternate Opening: Four Goblins (SD – 10:35)
- Lost Scenes – The Fairie Dance (SD – 3:06)
- Storyboards: Intro/Three Goblins (HD – 113 in all)
- Storyboards: Lili and the Unicorns (HD – 96 in all)
- Storyboards: Mortal World Turned to Ice (HD – 100 in all)
- Storyboards: Jack and the Fairies (HD – 165 in all)
- Storyboards: Find the Mare, Lose the Alicorn (HD – 114 in all)
- Storyboards: Jack’s Challenge (HD – 225 in all)
- Storyboards: Meg Mucklebones and the Great Tree (HD – 88 in all)
- Storyboards: Downfall of Darkness (HD – 100 in all)
- Alternate Footage (HD – 9:00)
- Screenplay Drafts: First Draft (HD – 302 pages)
- Screenplay Drafts: Shooting Script (HD – 254 pages)
- US Theatrical Trailer #1 (SD – 1:24)
- US Theatrical Trailer #2 (SD – 1:13)
- International Trailer (HD – 1:52)
- US TV Spots (SD – 4 in all – 2:11)
- Production Stills Image Gallery (HD – 78 in all)
- Continuity Polaroids Image Gallery (HD – 72 in all)
- Poster & Video Art Image Gallery (HD – 30 in all)
Ridley Scott’s DVD-era audio commentary offers plenty of additional insights that the other bonus material doesn’t contain. Creating a Myth is the 2000 documentary about the making of the film from the DVD release. Directed by J.M. Kenny, it features several members of the cast and crew, among them producer Arnon Milchan, Ridley Scott, writer William Hjortsberg, make-up effects designer Rob Bottin, production designer Assheton Gorton, editor Terry Rawlings, Mia Sara, and Tim Curry. Original Featurette is an archival making-of used to promote the film in 1985, sourced from a VHS of poor quality. Two Lost Scenes are included: the Four Goblins alternate opening, which is sourced from a VHS workprint, and The Fairie Dance, which survives only in audio form with stills and storyboard images used to recreate it. The massive Storyboards galleries include a total of 1,000 stills to click through. The Alternate Footage is sourced from the international version of the film. Both Screenplay Drafts are complete with 556 pages to click through. Three trailers and four TV spots are included too, as well as a trio of additional image galleries featuring 180 stills. And it should be noted that virtually all of the bonus materials from previous releases has been carried over here.
Each disc is housed in a clear Amaray case with six lobby card reproductions and double-sided artwork, the new artwork by Neil Davies on the front and the original US theatrical artwork by John Alvin on the reverse. Also included is a 60-page booklet featuring cast and crew information, and several essays: Into the Heart of Darkness by Nicholas Clement, Legends of Darkness by Kat Ellinger, Designing Darkness by Simon Ward, the film’s production notes, Making Legend by William Hjortsberg from 2002, Charles de Lauzirika on the Director’s Cut by Andy Dursin from 2002, Ridley Scott on the 2011 Blu-ray Transfers, and restoration information. Included alongside this material are 10 glossy color portraits of the cast, who were photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the film’s original marketing campaign, and a double-sided poster featuring the same new artwork on one side and the original theatrical artwork on the other. Everything is housed within a rigid slipcase featuring the same new artwork.
Despite failing at the box office, Legend has maintained a cult following in its aftermarket life. Ridley Scott’s take on the Brothers Grimm was his last genre project for many years, up until the release of Prometheus. At the time, Scott was still reeling from his previous financial failure (Blade Runner) and seemed more determined than ever to make something audiences would embrace. Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards. One can always hope that—with a bit of luck—all of the lost footage from this film will be found someday, thus making a 4K UHD release more possible. But for now, Arrow Video’s beautiful new Blu-ray restoration and release of Legend represents a significant upgrade—certainly the best experience of this film on disc to date, with the most comprehensive special features too. It’s very highly recommended.
(For those interested in owning the international version as well, it’s currently still available on Blu-ray here if you’re so inclined.)
- Tim Salmons and Bill Hunt